Gladstone ready to hammer out city budget

GLADSTONE — The Gladstone city commission laid out a timeline Monday to address the city’s budget and the upcoming retirement of City Assessor Vicki Esch.

City staff have already been busy hammering out the details of the city’s budget, but, the commission, which ultimately approves the budget, has not yet been involved in the process.

The commission agreed Monday to set three special meetings for the commission to hear presentations from city staff and discuss the budget. These meetings are scheduled to take place on Jan. 29, Feb. 5, and Feb. 19 at 5 p.m. However, the Feb. 19 meeting may be canceled if the budget process moves faster than anticipated.

In the past, the commission has not taken action at budget workshop sessions, instead opting to reserve action for regular commission meetings.

“The reason we’re calling it a ‘special meeting’ is so that (if) we discuss certain things, we can act on certain things,” said City Manager Darcy Long.

Two commissioners, Dave Nemacheck and Brad Mantela, will be involved in at least one additional meeting with city staff. The meeting, which is scheduled to take place today, will focus on the community investment plan — formerly known as the “capital improvement plan” and sometimes referred to by staff simply as “C.I.P.” The plan outlines projects, equipment purchases, and programs that have one-time costs rather than annual recurring costs.

In addition to the city budget meetings, the commission scheduled two annual staff reviews for the regular commission meeting on Feb. 26. At that time, the commission will review City Clerk Kim Berry and City Assessor Vicki Esch, who will be retiring in the coming year.

Esch’s retirement poses unique challenges for the city that will need to be addressed during the special budget meetings. Across the region, cities are shifting away from the individual assessors to consulting firms. The shift has caused a shortage of individuals capable of filling the position.

“Right now, it is a very difficult thing (to find an assessor) across the entire state. Actually across the Midwest, finding individual assessors is very difficult,” said Long.

Esch was subcontracted by the commission for assessing services and was in the city a few times a week. Whether shifting to the use of a consulting firms would be more costly or more cost effective for Gladstone is still unknown.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, Esch expressed to city staff that she intended to use her review time, at least in part, to discuss the city’s options and what the commission should look for in her replacement.